Animas River Trail
Animas River Trail Project Progress through National Park Foundation Grant
For hundreds of years, people have appreciated the riverine area along the Animas River. As populations settled and resettled over time, they developed connections with the landscape, realizing the significant value of the local resources.
From the magnificent structures of the ancestral Pueblos to the charming historic downtown district, reflections of a long history of agriculture and pastoralism are still evident in the vibrant, progressive community that encompasses the City of Aztec.
Today, not only the local community but folks from around the world recognize the serene sense of place that defines the rich riparian environment within the City of Aztec. Understanding the importance as such, Aztec Trails & Open Space, the City of Aztec, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and local partners have developed a concept plan for a trail system linking the community's major assets -- Animas River, Aztec Ruins, Historic Main Street, and the two largest recreational and sports parks in the City of Aztec. As assistance with the development, this project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation, the national charitable partner of America's National Parks.
The project, Animas River Trail and Interurban Loop, encompasses the connections of Aztec's diverse natural, cultural and historic resources through a trail network. The trail will connect neighborhoods and parks with the Aztec Ruins, the Animas River, and the historic downtown district along with designated open space lands. The project lead, Aztec Trails & Open Space, was established to provide education and low impact recreation by creating and maintaining trails as well as inspiring stewardship of the local environment for the communities today and for future generations.Committed to the project, ATOS has sought the assistance of the other entities, and has brought them together with a common goal. Trail planning and development has been supported by citizen volunteers of all ages and abilities, governmental partners, local youth conservation groups, service corps and non-governmental organizations.
Recently, work began toward the development of a publically accessible recreational trail, utilizing the old ditch maintenance road located along the Animas River for the trail segment that will connect the Aztec Ruins National Monument to the rest of the network. Work on the segment, just over one mile in length, was performed by a Southwest Conservation Corps conservation crew. The SCC is a non-profit organization, with regional offices in Durango, CO, that completes conservation work on public lands. Since 1998, the SCC has been keeping the legacy of the old CCCs alive by completing conservation work throughout the Four Corners region. The SCC provided an 8-person crew, with two experienced leaders and six members, for 300 hours of work per week contracted. The young adults involved in the project worked diligently in the heat and pestered by insects over period of five days, June 20th – 24th. The efforts of their work can be seen from Riverside Park, north to the old Chaco Street Bridge. As part of the SCC experience, the crew was given a special tour through Aztec Ruins National Monument, guided by Park Ranger Landis Ehler, also previous employee of the SCC crew our of Durango.
The entire trail segment when completed will be roughly 3 miles of river trail connecting the Aztec Ruins National Monument to the city's resources and the cultural landscapes that surround them both. Restoration work, in conjunction with the trail construction, is planned to improve the Animas River waterway and native wildlife and plant habitat. Restoration and erosion control measures will be conducted and native trees replanted as appropriate.
Did You Know?
Aztec Ruins lies near the banks of the "River of Lost Souls." In 1776, a Spanish exploration party noted many ancestral Pueblo ruins as they crossed the Animas River valley looking for California. Father Escalante named the stream "Rio de las Animas Perdidas," or "river of lost souls."